Dine slopeside at Los Amigos in Vail
Special to the Weekly
If you go ...
What: Los Amigos, a friendly, high-energy restaurant with excellent people watching.
Where: 400 Bridge St., Vail.
Cost: Appetizers $4-$15.25; lunch $9.75-$13.95; dinner $11.25-$34 (portion for 2 people).
Signature dish: Enchilada Especial del Azul and margaritas
More information: Call 970-476-5847 or visit www.losamigosvail.com.
Editor’s note: This article was previously published as a paid feature in EAT, a compendium of restaurant snapshots featuring the best in Vail Valley dining. Look for it on newsstands everywhere.
It takes a very special place to remain in the hearts and minds of both locals and visitors in Vail. Known as the location where you can watch people tumble down Pepi’s Face in the winter and hiking and biking in summer, Los Amigos has been welcoming guests with a friendly smile and a tasty margarita for more than 40 years.
Los Amigos features authentic Mexican cuisine, something that chef Todd Purse is passionate about.
“Everything is fresh,” he says. “All of our sauces are house made, using dried or fresh chiles. We use fresh ingredients; it’s the real thing.”
These guys know what they’re doing. Both the sous chef and the hot foods sous chef have been at Los Amigos for 15 years; Purse has almost two decades at the restaurant. And while there are classic dishes that will always remain on the menu, Purse enjoys collaborating with his chefs to keep it fresh.
Grab a table, order a margarita and get ready for a taste of Mexico.
There’s a secret to Purse’s staying power. He says his first advantage is, simply, his staff.
“Michael Staughton and Ron Riley, these guys have taken good care of us, and they know when they see good help,” Purse says of the Los Amigos owners. “My sous chefs have been there for 10 to 15 years, and the rest of the kitchen staff has been there at least five or six years, so it’s a good working atmosphere.”
Getting to the restaurant early and making sure everything is carefully prepared from scratch, with no shortcuts, is another one of the keys to the kitchen’s success. Purse and his loyal team of sous chefs even go so far as cutting all their own meat, giving locals favorites like the street tacos with sauteed sirloin steak an extra special appeal.
Another part of the trick to keeping guests coming back is, simply, having those guests see the food. Take one look at the open faced, layered enchiladas with fried egg on top, and you may be canceling the reservations you had elsewhere.
Purse says over the years he has learned that a few good signature specials always keeps people enticed.
Some of the more popular winter specials include panko-crusted fried lobster tacos, jalapeño bacon burger sliders, and crab and shrimp enchiladas with a jalapeño-cream sauce.
The specials are so good that they should be on the everyday menu, but again, they make everything from scratch.
“Some of the specials we can only do one day per week because they’re just too labor intensive,” Purse says with a laugh.
And like the expectation of a skier wiping out on Pepi’s Face on the way down, “People do look forward to them,” he added.
A big part of the draw to Los Amigos is the atmosphere. Walking in, you feel as if you’re already part of the crew. Grandparents bring their grandkids, folks bring in friends that are new to town and suddenly everyone’s chatting like they’ve known each other for years. It’s a vibe that’s difficult to attain and impossible to cultivate.
“I think that’s what keeps people coming back,” says Rodney Johnson, general manager of Los Amigos. “The fun that they have.”
Fall means food and wine festivals and also a chance to see the colors just starting to turn over Vail Pass during a bike ride for charity.